Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Life-changing sentences

Have you thought about going to Durham?

The place: The careers department of my school, which was also where all the university prospectuses were kept

The person: Mr. Scotto, the careers advisor

The background: When I was trying to choose a university, I didn’t even know that Durham had one. My knowledge of the north-east pretty much stopped at the fact that there was some coal mining there.

I also didn’t really know how far north it was. Before going on my open day, the furthest north I’d ever been was York when I was about 8 years old. As a child, I thought it was right on the border with Scotland, so panicked when my train arrived in York and I hadn’t got off – I thought I’d somehow missed the station, but soon realised that there’s a lot more of England to traverse before you get to the border!

Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral

The consequences: I fell in love with the Durham as soon as I arrived. Within a couple of hours I was already imagining what it would be like to be a student there, and I never once regretted my choice. It was also where I did my CELTA.

Graduation day

Graduation day

I loved my three years in Durham so much that when it was time to return to the UK for a while in 2011, I picked the closest place to Durham I could, and ended up spending another two years in the north-east, living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Newcastle bridges

Newcastle bridges

Maybe you should go to Central Europe

The place: Durham University Language Department

The people: My CELTA tutors, Teti and Lesley

The background: I did my CELTA part-time from October to February of my final year of university. I’d always been a forward planner, and come November I was worrying because I didn’t know what I’d do or where I’d go after graduation. I started off by looking for interesting cities, my main criteria being that they should be near the sea, and preferably near the border with another country too. The first city I fixated on was Trieste, Italy, followed by Thessaloniki in Greece a month or so later. Then I remembered that I’d heard about International House and fancied working for them. Scouring their recruitment list, I felt a bit overwhelmed, and nothing really jumped out at me, so at the end of the course I asked my tutors for help.



The consequences: I spent three wonderful years at IH Brno, years which gave me the foundations to become the teacher I am today. I fell in love with the city and made lots of friends. I also got to about pre-intermediate level in Czech, which helped a lot with my Russian.

There’s a huge community of ELT people on Twitter

The place: IH Brno

The person: Shaun Wilden

The background: Shaun inspected IH Brno to ensure it met the standards of International House. As part of an inspection, there is always a final meeting with the teachers to summarise what happened during the visit. He threw this sentence out at some point during the meeting, and it stuck with me.

The consequences: Too many to mention! My Twitter account, learning a huge amount from ELTchat, my blog(s), co-curating ELTpics, conference visits and talks, writing work…but most importantly, contacts. Lots and lots of contacts, including some very good friends.

Lots of wonderful people at my IATEFL 2014 conference presentation

Lots of wonderful people at my IATEFL 2014 conference presentation

Olga’s looking for a Director of Studies. Do you know anyone who’s interested?

The place: Brno/facebook!

The person: Pavla

The background: Both years I lived in Newcastle I went for a week’s holiday in Brno and ran around like crazy trying to catch up with as many friends as possible. One evening I was chatting to Pavla about what I was going to do after I finished my Delta. Later that evening, she sent me a facebook message.

IH Sevastopol

IH Sevastopol

The consequences: The next morning I sent Olga an email with my CV, and a week after that I had a Skype interview where she offered me the DoS job at IH Sevastopol.



That led to one of the most eventful years of my life (mostly not my doing), learning Russian, teaching a visually impaired student, becoming a CELTA tutor, and therefore being able to travel the world doing CELTA courses.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

We’re looking for a new DoS next year

The place: The IH DoS conference 2015, Greenwich

The person: Tim

The background: I happened to sit next to Tim on the first day of the DoS conference. During one of the sessions we started chatting about the lesson planning groups at IH Bydgoszcz and the importance of professional development for new teachers. He dropped this key sentence into the conversation at some point that day. The next day he said we should talk. On day three of the conference, we did. For nearly two hours.

The consequences: It was a very productive conversation, and three weeks later I was on my way to Bydgoszcz to see the school. Two days into the visit we met with the owner of the school, and I was formally offered the job.

The post office in Bydgoszcz's beautiful neighbour, Torun

The post office in Bydgoszcz’s beautiful neighbour, Torun

That means that at the end of August this year, I’ll embark on the next stage of my career: becoming a full-time manager of a thriving school, with only a few hours of teacher. I’m very excited about this step, and also slightly scared, but I know I’ll be able to deal with it thanks to the wonderful support network I have.


Comments on: "Life-changing sentences" (10)

  1. What a brilliant idea for a blog post! And I’m so pleased for you about the new job – well-deserved and I’m sure you will shine!


  2. Hi Sandy. Great to hear your news and the story of some of your career. Sorry to admit my ignorance but where is Torun? Xx


  3. And congratulations!


  4. OK I lied, I can’t resist commenting on this one because the exact same thing happened to me about Durham, too! I did German, Spanish and Italian, and was at Hild Bede, what about yourself? It sounds like you’ve had a fantastic few years! Best of lucky with becoming a Director of Studies 🙂


    • How funny! I did French, German and Spanish and was at Collingwood 2004-2008. When were you there? (And I’m sorry not to address you by name, but I don’t know it! Don’t feel like I can say Dear BerLingo!)
      Thanks for the wishes 🙂


      • Haha sorry my name is Rachel, the Berlingo blog isn’t quite ready yet but it seems to be the easiest way to post comments! I was there 2008-2012 so i just missed you! I definitely should have been in Collingwood tho 🙂 I’m actually going back up to the dreaming spires next weekend to visit a friend who has a flat in that block next to Elvet Riverside. Excited to see how much it has changed!


        • Say hello to my favourite cathedral! 🙂 What I find every time I go back is how young everyone looks – I tend to think that they’re not old enough to be at uni yet, then realise it’s actually me who’s an old fogey 😉 Have a good time Rachel, and thanks again for the comments!


  5. […] predecessor, Tim, first mentioned the possibility of taking over from him as Director of Studies (DoS) managing a team of 18-20 teachers, I really […]


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